Who? Jesse Erens, MSc student of Biology
What? A three-month course and several research field trips on reptiles and amphibians
Before I went to Madagascar for a course, I happened to attend a guest lecture of the life history of the Madagascan lemur. That teacher put me in touch with a German researcher who gave me the opportunity to join several research expeditions. During those expeditions I went with a guide and a researcher from Madagascar to places for which little or nothing has been done towards an inventory of the species present.
Sometimes we followed descriptions written a hundred years ago in order to take DNA samples from animals for which that has not yet been done, and of which there still no photos even. We went into some remote areas and sometimes we had to clear the road or make a detour because a bridge was flooded. That was all part of the deal. Once we had to hide in the bush from a cattle-rustling gang who were coming towards us in two four-wheel drives with searchlights. But on the whole Madagascar struck me as a very safe and friendly country.
On the course life was a lot less adventurous, but it was a perfect introduction to the diversity and uniqueness of Madagascar. I am still looking into what I can do with the data I have collected. Perhaps I can use it for my thesis, but that is not clear yet. As a biologist, of course you would like to show how beautiful and precious the biodiversity is there. That makes it hard to take that the government can do so little about it because of the political instability and massive poverty. Fortunately there will be elections soon and we hope that after that more attention will be paid to nature conservation.'